What they never told you about pregnancy
PREGNANCY: THE GOOD, BAD, & SOMETIMES SCARY...
Pregnancy is a beautiful miracle that can be a bit mysterious, confusing & at times even a bit scary with everything that's going on in your body. I am here to hopefully put you at ease & answer some of the things you may have heard a little about & others that not many seem to talk about. Pregnancy is a journey of learning, growing, & discovery. I want you to go on your journey prepared & well informed
EMOTIONS, FATIGUE, DREAMS, SEX & NESTING
One of the first things you should know is that you're not alone. Literally millions of women have made this journey that you're on right now & have experienced all these feelings of excitement, terror, confusion, panic, joy, fear & maybe even uncertainty that you are going through right about now. Along with that new batch of hormones you just got, comes with it some lovely mood swings to take up residence in your daily life. It's quite common for newly pregnant as well as full term mother's-to-be to be contented & happy one moment & crying uncontrollably the next. Only to be promptly followed up by being totally scatter-brained & confused because for some reason you can't remember normal every day things you do & once you finally remember what it was you had forgotten, you can't find your keys you could have sworn you just had in your hand a minute ago! It's ok, all pregnant women go through what seem like daily goose hunts, but all you need to remember is to take it easy on yourself, you're only human and with all these extra hormones & changes your body is going through, you're bound to have a teary moments, a fit or two and more than one occasion where you discover that the thing you were looking for was in your purser the whole time lol....it doesn't last, & your hormones will level out with a bit of time. Once you get past the first trimester (the first three months of pregnancy) you will most likely find that being pregnant is a joy & at moments it leaves you in awe & takes your breath away. Oh & that the mood swings play a very small part in the grand scheme of things.
Now, while many women are blessed & do not have many of what you might call pregnancy side-affects, they may never experience this, while others are nodding off at this very moment, trying to read about what's to come in the months ahead. Fatigue is generally at it's strongest in the first trimester. You may find yourself falling asleep quite literally standing up at times, nodding in & out during meetings at work or dozing off on the couch trying to watch your favorite TV show. I think the most heard complaint is that they are "tired all the time" or they "just can't seem to wake up". It's alright...this to shall pass. During your third trimester (the last three months of pregnancy) the fatigue may return a bit; however it's happening now because your body is carrying around extra weight not having hormone spikes. You may notice that it doesn't take much to wear you out or wind you out & you may need more time to rest than you did in your second trimester (months 4,5 & 6). This passes quickly as well. You might even be delighted to discover that during your second trimester you should find yourself feeling energized, & full of life... Which is precisely what you are.
This is when some mothers-to-be begin nesting, while others don't beginning nesting behaviors until just weeks before birth. Nesting is basically what it sounds like: preparing your nest so to speak. Nesting women have a natural instinct or undeniable urge to prepare their home for the baby. It's something primal inside each of us. Every expectant mother nests in her own way, some suddenly find themselves in a frenzy to clean everything over again & again shortly before baby is due to arrive. Some new mothers get the urge to set up the nursery, re-arrange it repeatedly, and/or pack & re-pack their "hospital bag" just to make certain that everything is just perfect for when that time comes way ahead of time... There is no right or wrong way, every mother does things according to her individual instincts. Listen to your body, it will guide you through this entire journey.
Pregnant women have been known to reg-ail their doctors with tales of profoundly vivid dreams. While dreaming you may wake yourself from a sound sleep, talking or motioning an activity with your hands. Your dreams may feel so realistic to you that you could swear you that you can actually touch & feel something you're dreaming about or even smell or taste it. Pregnant dreams can seem incredibly life like & realistic while dreaming them, in both the good & the bad dreams. Which I'm sure you can imagine has it's down side. Some women have reported having the same dream again & again, while others have dreams that are just as vivid, but jumbled up & don't make sense to them at all. You have the wonderful hormone fairy to thank for these gifts of slumber. So don't stress, you're not going crazy, your punch wasn't spiked, they subside eventually & generally don't mean a thing.
Pregnancy can profoundly affect your sex drive in both directions. You may find during parts of your pregnancy that your sex drive had decreased significantly or even vanished for a spell. This is not out of the ordinary at all. What's important is what you're comfortable with, & your partner should try to be understanding of your lack of interest. Later in your pregnancy you just might be surprised to find that not only has it has returned, it's almost insatiable & you can't get enough of your partner. This is completely normal and should be embraced by the two of you.. Sexual intercourse will not harm your baby and unless your doctor has specifically advised you to refrain, go ahead & enjoy it!
There are so many different things going on in a woman's body during pregnancy, you can expect both emotional & physical changes to occur from the very beginning of your pregnancy. On the physical end of things you can expect to experience changes in blood volume & circulatory function, skin coloration & pigmentation, as well as muscular & tendon changes & bodily fluid fluctuation to name a few.
One of the first things you may notice is that your nipples & areolas (the dark circle surrounding your nipple) have not only become incredibly sensitive, but they've gotten darker & larger in size. This is completely normal. Your nipples will reduce in size & darkness after pregnancy, they may not go back to the exact same color or size, but they will bounce back so to speak. During your pregnancy your breasts themselves will also grow in size & may become quite tender, one of the things that you can do to "toughen up" your nipples since they will need it for breast-feeding is to spend a few hours each day either without a bra or in a nursing bra with the cups let down. Simply allowing your nipples rub against your t-shirt while you go about household chores & what-not will help a great deal.
Later in your pregnancy you may notice a dark line going down the center of your belly. Don't freak out, it's ok, it's called Linea Nigra, it's not permanent &doesn't happen to all women. You may notice it more if you have a naturally darker skin-tone or happen to be one that tans easily. The line begins to disappear shortly after birth.
SPIDER VEINS:You have noticed what look like tiny red, purple or blueish squiggly lines on your legs and are worried that something is wrong. Do not panic, these are called Spider Veins, and is simply an enlarged vein close to the skin's surface. This is due to the extra Estrogen & blood volume your body is carrying & usually goes away after pregnancy. Unless you have a very severe case they are not dangerous and will not require any attention. Should you notice the color of a leg vein (on the inside of your leg) growing in length or size and/or the site on your leg is hot to the touch please contact your doctor immediately as this could be sign of a blood clot *known as a pulmonary embolism*.
Now this one you may have heard about...Having an itchy belly and/or breasts. This is due to your skin stretching to accommodate your growing baby. The easiest way to keep from itching is to frequently massage your beautiful bump with moisturizer. There are several great moisturizers on the market to use. An old stand-bye & one of the best is pure Cocoa Butter. They also manufacturer moisturizers specifically for pregnant bellies. They usually have cute names like "belly butter" or "bump butter" & should be a thick lotion that takes a couple of minutes to rub in & absorb into your skin. Also a good thing to remember is DON'T SCRATCH...RUB. While it's not a guarantee, it does help reduce the chance of our next topic...
Your body is growing, naturally...but what happens when we grow too fast, or our skin does not have enough elasticity? We end up with stretch marks. These are lighter or can be darker than our overall skin-tone, slighty indented jagged like lines that can range in size a great deal. You can get them on your belly, breasts, or anywhere else on the body for that matter. They tend to be a little tender & can be itchy, although not all of them do...they can diminish in appearance with time(after pregnancy), they will never completely disappear. The best way to combat getting stretch marks to begin with is to keep your skin well hydrated & moisturized with a good quality lotion or body butter(not cooking butter). Another good practice is reasonable eating habits. The expression "eating for two" is outdated & misleading. You do not need to eat twice as much, or twice as often. Your baby gets everything he or she needs from YOUR body. If you chose to not eat, it is your body that suffers, not your baby's. Maintaining a healthy diet is not only good for you, it's a great way to keep the amount of weight you gain during your pregnancy within healthy limits. Which in turn keeps your body from growing all over and avoid stretch marks in other places.
GUM & NOSEBLEEDS:
Most dentists call this the "pink toothbrush effect"...During your first trimester you have hormonal changes within your body which causes an increased blood-flow to the mouth & sinus cavities in turn can cause bleeding gums & nosebleeds. Unfortunately there isn't much you can do about this one ladies. It does tend to ease up as your pregnancy progresses though.
LACTATION DURING PREGNANCY:
It is not at all uncommon to experience lactation (colostrum/milk secreting from your nipples) during your last trimester. Your body is preparing for your baby, & feeding him or her is a big part of that. You may notice while in or after a hot shower that milk or actually colostrum (your first milk, is thicker & jam packed with nutrients & antibodies that your newborn needs to fight off infections) is leaking from your breasts. Again, it's ok, this is normal. You will simply need some breast pads to place in your bra so that you do not leak through to your shirt. Breast pads can be either washable or disposable thin padded circles that you place over your nipple inside your bra cup. They can be bought at grocery stores in the baby isle, online if you prefer or even places like Babies R Us, Baby Depot, Target & Wal-Mart. Anyhow, like I said, your body is preparing for your baby's arrival & early lactation is just another way of your body letting you know that it's getting close to that special time.
One of the draw backs to PreNatal Vitamins is the Iron Supplement in them, which can lead to constipation. Also while pregnant you have extra Progesterone in your body & this tends to slow down the intestinal tract. If you find your bowels to be slow or irregular you can try to get them back on track by eating fiber-rich foods like fresh fruits & vegetables. In fact eating fiber-rich foods is a great way to even help prevent constipation, so don't hesitate to grab those fruits & veggies at snack time. Now if a fiber-rich diet is not quite enough to keep your bowels moving regularly your doctor and/or pharmacist can suggest a pregnancy safe stool softener for you.
It's quite common to experience leg cramps or what some call a "Charlie Horse" during your pregnancy. This typically happens during the second trimester due to the increased pressure of your growing uterus. Try avoiding sitting with your legs crossed for long periods of time for starters. Stretch the muscles in your legs by flexing your foot. Push your heel downward while pulling your toes towards your chest. Be gentle, it doesn't take much & massaging your legs will also help should you get muscle cramps. Lastly, try to avoid lying on your back, when you're pregnant & you lie on your back the pressure of your uterus puts strain on your spine which decreases the blood flow to your legs, causing them to cramp.
Dizziness is quite common among pregnant women, especially during the first trimester. You can try occurrences of it by not skipping meals, make sure to eat regularly. Do what you can to not get over-heated, this can bring on dizziness quickly & even more so if you haven't eaten. So stay cool & at a relatively even temperature. Also you can improve your circulation by being on your left side while lying down. Most importantly, if you feel dizzy, sit down & rest, have a glass of water while you wait for it to pass.
SHORTNESS OF BREATH:
As your uterus grows & puts more pressure on your organs, pushing them up further within your ribcage it is not uncommon to experience times when you are short of breath, or can not inhale deeply enough. There are a couple of tricks you can use to help this pesky little pain in the chest. Maintain good posture, walk, stand, & sit with your shoulders back. Not so much that it's uncomfortable, but it may just give you that little extra room in your diaphram that you need. You can also sleep with your head elevated, this will help a little too. If you are short of breath raise your arms over your head, this will open up your diaphram giving you that extra room to breath that you are needing.
There's an old wives's tale that says if you have a great deal of heartburn during your pregnancy your baby will be born with a head full of hair. I don't know if there's any truth to it or not, but it still doesn't make it hurt any less now does it ladies? If you have heartburn at night, sleep with your head & torso elevated. This will help keep your stomach acid from reaching your esophagus (throat), which is when you feel heartburn. You can help prevent the heartburn by eating small meals throughout the day & avoiding fatty, fried, & spicy foods. These can increase the amount of acid your stomach produces in efforts to digest these foods. If you are unable to bear the amount, frequency or severity of your heartburn I urge you to speak with your doctor about pregnancy safe acid reducing medicines.
SWELLING OR EDEMA:
Did you know that a pregnant woman's blood volume can increase by as much as 40%? Needless to say with almost twice as much blood going through your body, your circulatory system has to work harder & tends slow down a bit later in pregnancy. Which of course leads us right to swelling. You might even be looking down wondering what happened to your ankles... where the heck did they go? When you have a decrease in circulation, you want to avoid staying in the same position for too long, doesn't matter if it's standing or sitting. try to take breaks from sitting at your desk & move about or if you find yourself standing for long periods of time, make sure you take short breaks to rest and put your feet up. Your doctor will monitor & check the amount of swelling at each prenatal visit. A bit of swelling is normal & to be expected, however if you notice a great deal of swelling please contact your doctor promptly as this could be an indication that something more serious is going on.
The combination of an increased blood volume & constipation can lead you to the painful, itching & burning sensation that is hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are not serious & unfortunately common among pregnant women. They are to put it simply, enlarged or varicose veins in the rectum. They may appear as small bulges at the rectal opening, or they may be on the inside of the rectum, & not visible to the eye. Do not be alarmed if they bleed a little during a bowel movement, especially if you are constipated. This is perfectly normal of this lovely blessing that came along for the ride. There are medicated ointments & wipes to help with the uncomfortable symptoms of these little buggers & your doctor can tell you which brands are safe for pregnancy. Don't worry, they are not permanent & usually go away a short time after birth.
And last but certainly not least...
EARLY CONTRACTIONS OR BRAXTON HICKS:
This may be one of a woman's most confusing & frightening of these untold "pregnancy side-affects" for two reasons; They can begin as early as 20 weeks, & it can be difficult to tell the difference between "braxton hicks" & true labor. Braxton hicks are an early "practice" contraction. Remember earlier how we talked about how your body is preparing for your baby's birth? Well that is exactly what it is doing with these early contractions...practicing for the main event. These contractions feel like your uterus is tightening up & may feel hard to the touch for a spell. They can even be quite uncomfortable at times. For the most part they are not painful & do not form a pattern like true labor contractions will, however any time you are uncertain, the contractions are too painful or you think you may be going into labor you should contact your doctor immediately to make sure that you are not going into premature labor if you are earlier than 37 weeks or going into actual labor if you are between 37-42 weeks.
I sincerely hope that I have answered any questions that you may have had & perhaps a few that you hadn't thought of yet. :) I sincerely wish that every expectant mother that reads this can enjoy the miracle watching your baby develop & grow through out your pregnancy. I also wish that each of you have healthy & happy pregnancies. Please browse my other articles on pregnancy, birth, newborn care & parenting as well as continue to check back for new articles to come. In the event that you still have unanswered questions regarding your pregnancy, please ask them in the comment section below. I will do my best to answer your inquiries swiftly.I also encourage you to simply leave any comments you have related to this article in the section below. I welcome your anecdotes, stories, comments as well as questions. -Congratulations on your pregnancy & be well.